Supporting the War Instead of the Troops

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Last week,
Congress debated a resolution directing the President to withdraw
our troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of this year.
The Constitution gives the power to declare war to the Congress,
so it is clearly appropriate for Congress to assert its voice on
matters of armed conflict. In recent decades, however, Congress
has defaulted on this most critical duty, essentially granting successive
presidents the unilateral (and clearly unconstitutional) power to
begin and end wars at will. This resolution was not expected to
pass; however, the ensuing debate and floor vote served some very
important purposes.

First, it was
important to finally have an actual floor debate on the merits and
demerits of continuing our involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan.
Most congressional action regarding Afghanistan has concerned continued
funding for the conflict. Thus, members of Congress have cloaked
their support for an increasingly unpopular war in terms of financial
support of the troops. But last week’s resolution had nothing
to do with funding or defunding the war, but rather dealt directly
with the wisdom of an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops (and
hundreds of billions of tax dollars) in Afghanistan. Members opposing
the resolution had to make their case for the ongoing loss of American
lives as well as the huge expenditures required for an intractable
conflict.

In my opinion,
this was an impossible case to make.

Supporters
of the war made the same intellectually weak arguments for continuing
our occupation of a nation with a long and bloody history of resisting
foreign occupation. Ultimately, the war supporters in Congress prevailed
in the vote on the resolution. Still, the vote was significant because
it places every member of Congress on the record as supporting or
not supporting the unconstitutional, costly, violent occupation
of a country that never attacked us. This vote should serve as an
important reminder to the American people of where their representatives
really stand when it comes to policing the world, empire building,
and war.

The War Powers
Resolution was passed in 1973 in the aftermath of Vietnam. It was
intended to prevent presidents from slipping this country so easily
into unwinnable wars, wars with indistinct enemies and vague goals.
Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect by literally legalizing
undeclared wars for 90 days. In the case of Afghanistan, 90 days
has stretched into nearly a decade. The original purpose of the
initial authorization of force — to pursue those responsible
for the attacks on September 11 — is no longer applicable.
Al Qaeda has left Afghanistan; we are now pursuing the Taliban,
who never attacked us. The Taliban certainly are not our friends,
but the more of them we kill, the more their ranks grow and the
stronger they become. Meanwhile, we are spending hundreds of billions
of dollars in Afghanistan and accelerating our plunge toward national
bankruptcy. Whose interests do we serve by continuing this exercise
in futility?

Osama Bin Laden
has said many times that his strategy was to bankrupt America, by
forcing us into protracted fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union learned this lesson the hard way; and ultimately
was forced to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in defeat and
humiliation. This same fate may await us unless we rethink our policy
and resist any escalation of our military efforts in Afghanistan.
Our troops should be used for defending our country, making us safer
and stronger at home — not for occupying foreign nations with no
real strategy or objective.

See
the Ron Paul File

March
16, 2010

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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